Former Millinocket Recreation Department director Mary Walsh won her lawsuit against the town of Millinocket after the jury found that town councilor Matt Polstein abused his position, exacted revenge, and violated the Whistle-Blower Protection Act when he and his council allies, then known as the "MAGIC Bloc" removed her from her job in 2005.
Mary won $25,000 in damages against the town, and is poised to receive another $50,000 in back pay and $50,00 for legal fees as well as reinstatement when the judge hands down his further ruling in October.
The trouble for Mary came after she was overheard talking with friends in a local restaurant about the fact that Polstein was, in her opinion, not properly grooming the trails for which he was paid. He was, she said, grooming them quite well between the town and his Twin Pines cabins, but woefully neglected the rest of the trail system.
She and her friends further discussed what Mary should do, and she mentioned that she had discussed it with the town manager as well as notified the state Trails Administrator.
Shortly thereafter, she received email from Councilor Polstein at her office in which he told her that she should be more careful about where she eats and what she said there, and made what Mary and her friends considered "veiled threats" against her and her job.
Shortly after that incident, Mary and three friends were eating lunch at the Chinese restaurant in town. When they went to leave, Matt Polstein sped into the parking lot, blocked her car with his, and proceeded to give Mary a large piece of his mind. It was clear to witnesses that Polstein was trying to intimidate Mary.
On June 23, 2005, Polstein cast the deciding vote to remove Mary from her job and hand over the running of Millinocket's Recreation Department to East Millinocket. That action galvanized the children in Millinocket, who knocked on doors, handing out the proposal to people and packing the town council meeting with their supporters.
Local citizens repeatedly commented at the time that Polstein "might as well just get 4 votes on the council, and Gail Fanjoy and his other puppets could just stay home." The jury apparently understood Polstein's position on the Council and did not believe the defense assertions that Polstein's vote was just one of four and that he had not acted out of revenge and in furtherance of his threats against Mary.
Aside from Councilor Matt Polstein, Mary had made an enemy of Councilor David Nelson after he "suggested" that the annual Easter egg hunt be held at Millinocket Regional Hospital, which is where Nelson worked. Mary refused, saying that the hunt was traditionally held at Granite Street School, and she wanted to follow tradition. Nelson subsequently railed against Mary at meetings.
In a prepared statement, Councilor Matt Polstein tried to defend his actions, addressing the fact that the town's population was declining and that the town was in "economic turmoil" at the time, but failed to address his threatening actions toward Mary, or the fact that his deciding vote was cast moments after he indicated that it was possible that the contract would cost the town $5,000 more than keeping Mary Walsh would have cost, and just after Councilor David Nelson stated, "$5,000 is a small price to pay for increased services."
Attorney A.J. Greif, who represented Mary in the case, stated that Councilor Polstein "was one of the most helpful witnesses I could have asked for. He is someone who didn't understand that power was a gift from the people, not a sword for revenge."
The Town of Millinocket sent this statement: "On Wednesday September 10, 2008, the jury in the Mary Walsh v. Town of Millinocket civil case returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, Mary Walsh. This case is not yet totally resolved as additional proceedings are anticipated during October. Until all matters in this case are resolved, the Town will have no further comment on this matter."